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Quitline providing critical support to smokers at increased risk of coronavirus impacts

Posted 2 Apr, 2020

There is emerging evidence that people who smoke are likely to be more susceptible to infection with coronavirus and more likely to be more affected by coronavirus (COVID-19). The combination of a reduced immune system and the impacts of smoking or vaping on the lungs, including inflammation and poor lung function, mean people who smoke are quite likely to be at a higher risk of illness. These risks were highlighted by two leading respiratory researchers this week.

Quit Director Dr Sarah White said that the emerging evidence meant it was particularly important for people who smoke to heed government advice to practice physical distancing, wash their hands thoroughly and avoid touching their face. “What is coming through from international studies is worrying and it is very consistent with what we already know, which is that people who smoke are more likely to get influenza and colds caused by viruses.

“People who smoke need to be extra-cautious right now. Please don’t share cigarettes, waterpipes or e-cigarettes and be very aware that the hand-to-mouth action of smoking and vaping means you are frequently bringing your hands into close contact with your face. Practising good hand hygiene is a must.”

The Quitline has so far seen only a slight increase in callers wanting to quit, but Dr White said that nearly 100 per cent of people who were calling were telling Quitline counsellors that they were worried about coronvirus.

“It’s a good time to make a quit attempt,” said Dr White. “You can make self-isolation and your friends and family around you – physically or online – work for you. Give the Quitline a call on 13 7848 to help you prepare. The counsellors can provide advice on the types of stop smoking medications available and work with you to develop your own personalised plan to help you quit, by helping you identify your triggers and developing practical ways to manage them.”

VicHealth CEO Dr Sandro Demaio said there were many reasons to quit smoking right now.

“When you quit smoking, your body’s ability to transport and utilise oxygen increases, your respiratory function improves and your immune system gets stronger, which helps fight off infection,” Dr Demaio said.

“Quitting now gives you a better chance of recovering from coronavirus, while in the longer term you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy better health overall.”

Evidence shows the best way to stop smoking is to use a tailored quit counselling service such as Quitline on 13 7848 to beat triggers and habits, along with nicotine patches and either gum, lozenge or spray to manage cravings. For more quitting advice, visit or call the Quitline on 13 7848 between 8am and 8pm Monday to Friday. Quitline is a non-judgemental and culturally inclusive telephone service for all, including the LGBTIQ+ community. Aboriginal Quitline counsellors are also available.


Quit Victoria is a partnership between VicHealth, the State Government of Victoria and Cancer Council Victoria. For more information, visit:

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